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Aníbal Sánchez, Miles Mikolas to square off in NLCS Game 1

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The Nationals and Cardinals have tabbed starters for Game 1 of the NLCS, set for Friday night in St. Louis. The visiting Nationals will send veteran Aníbal Sánchez to the hill to oppose Miles Mikolas, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and Anne Rogers, respectively. While the Nationals haven’t set the rest of their rotation yet, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has set up Adam Wainwright for Game 2, Jack Flaherty for Game 3, and Dakota Hudson for Game 4.

Sánchez, 35, was quite good in his NLDS Game 3 start against the Dodgers, limiting them to a lone run while scattering four hits and a pair of walks with nine strikeouts over five innings. Sánchez is, in a lot of ways, an afterthought when discussing the Nationals’ rotation which boasts Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. The Cardinals know well enough not to underestimate Sánchez, who posted a 3.85 ERA across 30 regular season starts.

Mikolas, 31, enjoyed a major league career rebirth last year after spending several years in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. In 2018, he led the league with 18 wins while posting a 2.83 ERA in 200 2/3 innings. He finished sixth in NL Cy Young voting. He wasn’t able to follow up with the same level of success this year, finishing the regular season leading the league with 14 losses along with a 4.16 ERA. Mikolas was good in his NLDS Game 1 start against the Braves, though, allowing a lone run over five innings. He also tossed a perfect inning of relief in Game 4.

Nationals-Cardinals is definitely not the NLCS many of us predicted — certainly not I — but it should be a fun one.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).